Sweeping new powers for language minister

Posted By: Angelica Montgomery · 12/10/2012 4:23:00 PM

A section of bill 14, the Parti Quebecois' new language legislation, would grant the language minister the power of a public inquiry while she investigates issues related to the status of French.

Using words like "scandalous," the Liberals say the easily overlooked section of the bill grants the minister quasi-judicial powers, and would launch what they call a "political language police."

Section 1.3 of the bill gives the minister, or anyone she delegates, the power to force companies, municipalities, or others, to testify before her, hand over documents, and take oaths.

Under the bill, those who fail to co-operate or sufficiently answer questions could be charged with contempt.

Reason unclear

"What's the justification? There is none," says Liberal interim leader Jean-Marc Fournier.

He argues that since the Office Quebecois de la Langue Française (OQLF) already has these powers, the only reason the minister would want them is to politicize the process.

Fournier says, under the new bill, the PQ could give a hard-line language activist the power to conduct an inquiry into any language issue he or she wants.

"It's highly contestable to launch a political police on language, when all you want to do is fuel your idea of separation," Fournier said in the National Assembly last week.

Reasonable

The language minister Diane De Courcy explains the new powers by saying the OQLF investigations are operating well. "However, in terms of the government, we shouldn't skirt our responsibilities when it comes to political powers," she said on Thursday.

"I think it's (the new powers are) reasonable under the circumstances, considering the importance of the question of the French language," says De Courcy.

Pauline Marois is accusing the Liberals of running a fear campaign.

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